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Two Batman Villains Get Radical Redesigns In Exclusive City Of Madness Preview

Contains spoilers for DC Comics' "Batman: City of Madness" by Christian Ward

A new Batman miniseries will take the Dark Knight into a cosmic-horror epic and showcase a side of Gotham City never seen before.

"Batman: City of Madness" by Christian Ward ("Black Bolt") will transport readers to another Gotham City buried deep below Gotham. The buried city, called Gotham Below, will feature twisted versions of Gotham's inhabitants, consumed by fear and anger, who are eager to take on their reflections above. The series will see Batman work alongside the Court of Owls after the gateway to Gotham Below, which the Court has protected for decades, is breached. The Caped Crusader will work with the Owls in fighting his dark opposite, as an evil, mirrored version of Batman will make his way to Gotham City and try to take over and be the last Dark Knight standing. At the same time, he will try to find a Robin of his own through dark means.

Looper has a first look at "Batman: City of Madness" #1 from DC Comics, showcasing the stunning and horror-filled world of Gotham Below, the Court of Owls, and a Gotham City that's been breached by evil doppelgängers. Check out our exclusive preview, which includes interiors, a new redesign of Talon of the Court of Owls, and a look ahead at what's coming next in the series.

Batman City of Madness is inspired by some of the greatest Batman stories

"Batman: City of Madness," by Christian Ward, is inspired by some of the most visually unique and critically beloved interpretations of the iconic DC superhero. Ward's cosmic-horror tale is part tribute to "Batman: Arkham Asylum" by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean, as well as "Batman: Gothic" by Grant Morrison and Klaus Janson. Ward revealed on Twitter that he's been fantasizing about telling his own Batman story for years and that the book serves as a love letter to "Arkham Asylum," saying the book changed the course of his life. He called "Batman: City of Madness" a "pseudo-sequel" to the acclaimed storyline.

The gorgeous, unlettered interiors for issue one showcase Ward's style with vibrant colors throughout.

The second preview page features Batman in his element, running across the rooftops of Gotham City, with the skyline filled with bats as The Dark Knight tries to remain hidden in plain sight.

The third page is a familiar scene to Batman readers but told in a new way. On the page, Bruce Wayne stands in front of a painting of his late parents, with their deaths in Crime Alley implied by the familiar imagery of blood and pearls, indicating the tragedy that led him on the path to becoming Batman.

City of Madness will feature iconic Batman rogues

The following three additional unlettered pages for "Batman: City of Madness" #1, Harvey Dent's Two-Face's new design can be seen. Ward wants to present a fresh take on the popular Batman villain, saying the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat and German Expressionism inspired his new interpretation of the classic supervillain. The art brilliantly splits Two-Face's world in half, showing the character's clean and ugly sides.

The text synopsis for the series' first issue teases the fight ahead — and keep reading on for Looper's exclusive debut of the series' fresh take on one of Gotham City's oldest villain organizations.

Buried deep beneath Gotham City there exists another Gotham. This Gotham Below is a living nightmare, populated by twisted mirrors of our Gotham's denizens, fueled by the fear and hatred flowing down from above. For decades, the doorway between the cities has been sealed and heavily guarded by the Court of Owls. But now the door swings wide, and the twisted version of the Dark Knight has escaped...to trap and train a Robin of his own. Batman must form an uneasy alliance with the Court and its deadly allies to stop him—and to hold back the wave of twisted super-villains, nightmarish versions of his own nemeses, each one worse than the last, that's spilling into his streets!

The Court of Owls plays a major part in the series

The Court of Owls, the secret, centuries-old criminal society of Gotham City elites who we first learned about in The New 52's "Batman" run by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, will have a prominent role in "Batman: City of Madness." A new layer about the Court of Owls will be explored in the story, as they will be revealed to be guarding the door to Gotham Below, preventing the dark, mirrored universe from seeping its way into the actual Gotham City.

Ward redesigned the villain Talon, the Court of Owls' main soldier, for "Batman: City of Madness." The look keeps elements from Talon's original costume, but the redesign actually gives him a look that makes him somewhat similar to Owl Man, the evil Batman from DC's alternate reality where the Justice League is a team of villains. Details on the design include a hood, an owl cloak, and sharp talons at the ends of his fingers.

Along with Two-Face, Talon's new design presents a version of the character who fits Ward's style but is immediately recognizable. It appears Batman is destined to team up with the villains, who have proved to be one of his more difficult adversaries. Batman working alongside the Court of Owls illustrates just how dire the situation with the emergence of the mirrored versions of Gothamites from Gotham Below will be.

What's coming next in Batman: City of Madness

Trusting the Court of Owls is easier said than done for Batman. In a first look at "Batman: City of Madness" #2, The Dark Knight meets with the masked secret society. The gorgeous artwork shows the hundreds of Owls gathered together, with Batman standing alongside Talon rather than fighting him.

"Batman: City of Madness" #2 will explore the Dark Knight's distrust of the Court of Owls, but with Gotham City's villains being infected by the Batman Below, Batman will find himself fighting alongside rather than against the Court. However, whether the Court plans to use Batman as their savior, weapon, or bait against the Batman Below remains to be seen. Check out the main cover for the second issue by Christian Ward below, followed by the issue's official synopsis.

The Court of Owls summons Batman, demanding he venture deep beneath the city to fight what has been unleashed from its depths: a wave of madness infecting Gotham's villains, driven by the monstrous creature they're calling "the Batman Below." But the Court has not-entirely-noble reasons for wanting this chaos stopped... Is Batman their weapon, or their bait?

Eisner Award winner Christian Ward's three-issue DC Comics Black Label miniseries officially begins when "Batman: City of Madness" #1 arrives at comic book stores on October 10, 2023. The second issue of the series arrives in comic book stores on December 12, 2023.